US not opposing Pakistan’s oil deal with Russia

Published April 27, 2023
US State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel addresses a press briefing. — AFP/File
US State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel addresses a press briefing. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Days after Pakistan placed its first order for discounted Russian oil, the Biden administration indicated that it will not oppose the deal.

“Look, each country is going to make its own sovereign decisions as it relates to its energy supply,” a US State Depart­ment spokesperson told reporters in Washington on Tuesday afternoon when asked to comment on Pakistan’s decision.

Vedant Patel, the department’s principal deputy spokesperson, said that the United States had left the door open for such purchases when it placed restrictions on Russian oil after Moscow invaded Ukraine last year.

“One of the reasons that the United States, through the G7, has been a big proponent of the price cap is to ensure that steps are not being taken to keep Russian energy off the market because we understand that there is a demand for supply,” Mr Patel explained.

The United States had indicated at previous briefings as well that Pakistan can purchase oil from Russia at a discounted price even though it has not signed a Washington-backed price-cap on Russian petroleum products.

“But we also need to take steps to ensure that Russian energy markets are not turning out to be a windfall for [President] Putin’s war machine,” Mr Patel warned.

“And so, again, countries will make their own sovereign decisions. We have never tried to keep Russian energy off the market,” he added.

Last week, Pakistan placed its first order for discounted Russian crude oil under a deal struck between Islamabad and Moscow, with one cargo to dock at the port of Karachi in May.

Under the deal, Pakistan will buy only crude, not refined fuels. Imports are expected to reach 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) if the first transaction goes through smoothly.

Pakistan’s purchase gives Russia a new outlet, adding to Moscow’s growing sales to India and China, as it redirects oil from western markets because of the restrictions.

Responding to another question about Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) acquiring the weapons the United States left behind while withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, Mr Patel assured Islamabad that “any assets or weaponry that were left in Afghanistan were no longer usable”.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2023

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